5 Evidence Based Reading Comprehension Strategies

Understanding the idea behind the text is just as important as learning how to read. Developing a child’s reading comprehension skills is important because it is the foundation for literacy. These evidence based reading comprehension strategies are especially helpful for struggling readers.

But before we delve into these strategies, we first need to understand how the brain learns to read and how reading disabilities manifest.

How Does The Brain Learn to Read?

Unlike speech, reading is not a natural part of child development.

Learning to read involves two neural streams: 

  • The dorsal stream (which is what is responsible for the visual detection and analysis of text). 
  • The ventral stream (which maps out the context for the newly read word). 

The ventral stream coordinates with the dorsal stream in a special arrangement. Synchronizing these two streams makes reading effortless both when you know the material and when you read the material for the first time. 

Reading disabilities, such as dyslexia, manifest when there are specific differences in the ventral and dorsal streams of the brain. Disruptions in the ventral stream cause dyslexia. This disruption impedes the ability to identify speech sounds and associate them with letters and words. 

The structured literacy approach is one of the most effective education models because it emphasizes the fundamentals of literacy. Students practice associating text with sounds through this approach.

What is Reading Comprehension?

Reading comprehension is the capacity to understand what you read. It is a function that engages both sides of the brain. The linear left side of the brain reads and interprets the text, while the nonlinear right side of the brain associates text with information. It is also how we derive meaning from text.

Reading comprehension is a foundational skill that directly impacts a person’s academic, social, and occupational success. It affects a student’s ability to comprehend the things taught at school. 

Evidence Based Reading Comprehension Strategies

1. Pair-Assisted Reading

Pair-assisted reading takes place when a teacher assigns two students to read together. One student reads aloud while the other student assumes a listener role. The listener may ask the reader questions related to the material.

Apart from the benefit of listening to a fluent reader, this approach also yields emotional and social benefits. It allows the listener (and the class) to learn more about the content through their questions.

According to this 2014 study, pair-assisted reading improves the reading accuracy and comprehension of both learner and mentor.

A woman reading a book while sitting on black leather 3-seat couch
Photo by Seven Shooter on Unsplash

2. Decoding

Decoding is the ability to decode written words and letter patterns and translate them into correct letter-sound relationships. Students recognize familiar words quickly by identifying these patterns. This also helps them understand new words.

3. Modeling

Modeling is the process of giving a reader an idea of how a text is structured by demonstrating the reading process. Modeled reading occurs when the teacher reads the text aloud while the students listen. 

This provides students with an opportunity to focus on good reading behaviors. It also allows teachers to share their knowledge on how they analyze and interpret the text.

4. Repeated Reading

Periodically repeated reading helps students go over materials they have difficulty understanding. Repeated reading improves overall reading fluency.

5. Graphic Organizers

Besides being effective for vocabulary instruction, graphic organizers improve students’ reading comprehension by teaching them how to group information. Students will then identify the relationships between these groups. 

It helps improve reading comprehension by supporting the synchronization of the ventral and dorsal brain streams.


Reading comprehension allows us to draw conclusions and interpret text accurately. These evidence-based strategies have varying levels of effectiveness on different students. Try using them all to determine which approach suits your students best.

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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